Zinc-iron flow battery developer ViZn Energy Systems (Columbia Falls, MT) has raised $15m to re-start operations with a new chief executive.
The Montana-based company has had to lay off staff for the last ten weeks until the new funding was agreed, coming from an energy industry private equity fund and several of the company’s long-standing investors. John Lowell, who has been serving as the Chief Operations Officer for 6 years, has also assumed the role of CEO.
“This technology is just too promising and the markets are learning that Lithium-Ion batteries are a ‘force-fit’ for long duration, 20-year duration, utility scale storage,” said Lowell. “We are going to take care of our partners, our employees and will make good on all purchase orders for customers in the Americas and Europe. We will finalize the field validation work for megawatt scale systems.”
The streamlining of the company will be driven largely by a reduction in the global commercial organization which will likely expand again in 2019. “As the technology is validated, we will invest in expanding the commercial efforts and super-charging existing partnerships in emerging storage markets like China, India and Australia,” he said.
The zinc-based flow batteries maintain their capacity over 20 years and provide 100 percent of their state of charge, giving them significantly more usable output than competitive batteries. They are also uniquely capable of performing both rapid, high-power discharges and slower, long-duration releases at lower power – unlike other comparable storage technologies which can only do one or the other. The inherently safe zinc-iron chemistry uses globally abundant materials and is non-flammable, non-toxic, and easily recyclable at the end of its life.
The company was founded in 2009 as Zinc Air but has struggled in recent months. Stephen Bonner, who became Chairman of its Board of Directors on January 1, also assumed the role of President and interim CEO by the end of January following the resignation of Ron Van Dell, who joined in 2014.
The company signed a deal in December with CMI Energy, a division of Belgian energy system provider Cockerill Maintenance & Ingénierie (CMI), to supply a 400 kilowatt, 3-hour, zinc redox flow battery system that will be integrated with 2 MWp of rooftop solar PV and installed at CMI’s headquarters in Seraing, Belgium.
“We believe ViZn’s technology is very interesting and has significant potential in energy storage applications because it is non-toxic, utilizes abundant raw materials, is highly scalable, and can provide multiple revenue streams,” said Jean-Michel Gheeraerdts, Executive President at CMI Energy at the time of the deal. “With renewables generation capacity rapidly growing, energy storage is set to expand globally.”
“CMI Energy has conducted a thorough study and decided to invest in its headquarters with a 2MWp PV system and battery storage, which will help CMI demonstrate technologic and economic viability in both grid-tied and off-grid operations. CMI has created a new business unit dedicated to energy storage and is definitively moving forward to meet growing demand with a bankable solution.”